by Michelle Dyer, Chief Operating Officer, Second Nature
On January 21, 2010, I joined a wonderful group of colleagues to present a workshop “A New Generation of Sustainability Leadership: The Role of Higher Education in Building a Green Economy” at the National Council for Science and the Environment’s (NCSE) 10th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment in Washington, DC.
Jim Buizer (Policy Advisor to the President; Director for Strategic Institutional Advancement, Arizona State University), Anthony Cortese (President, Second Nature), Paul Rowland (Executive Director, AASHE), Mitch Thomashow (President, Unity College), and I presented about the converging challenges of species extinction, the loss of biodiversity, the gap between rich and poor, a struggling economy, and climate destabilization.
A green economy is a response to this planetary emergency. This calls for a radical reshaping of the role of higher education in preparing a new generation of sustainability leadership. This is much more than providing technical training. It demands a new educational paradigm for integrating life cycle analysis, ecological concepts, ecological economics, and earth systems science into all aspects of higher education.
We need to be asking and answering difficult questions: How can we encourage colleges and universities to restructure their curriculum, reorganize their infrastructure, and recalibrate their missions? How do businesses develop entrepreneurial solutions that employ a generation of college-age students who are demanding meaningful and relevant jobs?
The panel members each gave a short presentation outlining their perspective on these questions, and following the workshop, participants broke into small groups for dialogue. As a result of the discussions, the participants generated ten recommendations for actions that can be taken by a variety of stakeholders including higher education institutions, government, faculty and staff, accreditation agencies, funders, and more. These recommendations are being compiled by NCSE and will be published along with recommendations that came our of the other breakout sessions. Look out for these in the near future.